A few years ago at Pride, an eldergay, upon hearing that I was living with my husband of 13 years (then) and was doing everything in my power to secure the right of every LGBT American to marry the person they love, looked me up and down and said, “Oh, you’re an assimilation queen.” He did not approve. He did not believe that the battles he fought so hard in the 70s and 80s should have led our people to the altar – the purest, most undiluted symbol of banality. As far as he was concerned, gay people had not been excluded from, as much as freed from the asphyxiation of a white picket fence. We had not been denied – we had escaped – the affliction of a mortgage, 1.5 children, a Labradoodle and the exasperation of discovering a two-week old half-eaten chunk of Babybel stuffed deep into the crevasse of an infant car seat. In a minivan. In August. Even though he had marched through the streets proclaiming our normality, he lamented what he found to be the evaporation of our outsider status. For him, that outsiderness was the wellspring of our creativity. Our uniqueness. Our beauty. Our fabulousness.
I hear rumblings of a similar nature about North Jersey Pride. It has a different feel than most others. This one is specifically
family friendly. While there are many fathers in attendance, this is not your Daddy’s Pride. All our blunt edges have been childproofed. Actually, were you to unfocus your eyes ever so slightly, it’s entirely likely you wouldn’t even know you were attending a gay event. Nestled into a beautifully manicured park in suburban New Jersey, kids run around screaming and being taught that hitting isn’t ok while moms and dads surreptitiously drink adult beverages from innocuous looking cups. You really have to work to tell that the moms and dads are not making the families together. It’s a barely altered Norman Rockwell. Assimilation indeed!
Coversely, every June the gay blogosphere erupts in debate over the lack of childproofing – or should I say lack of mediaproofing – at other Prides. Questions and perspectives boil over in posts and comments as we try to figure out for ourselves what Pride festivals are, and if they’re even still necessary. Are they political? Are they sexual? And if they are, doesn’t displaying ourselves in such a manner turn off our would-be supporters? Should we care? Why do we place front and center our drag queens, prancing sissy boys, clunky go-go dancers, dykes, topless women with heavy breasts and shaved, tattooed heads, and all the leather kings and queens who insist on wearing leather even though it’s 9,000 degrees outside, when most of us are just “normal”? How is any of that helping us? Does Pride have to help us?
And to top it all off, this year we have seen the passionate internal debate over the use of the word “tranny.” The earrings are off, the wigs unpinned. It’s gotten downright heated up in here. Everyone, it seems, has a visceral reaction to the subject, and has posted about it online.
I gotta say, I love it. I love all of it. I love every single out LGBT voice. I love us from the banal to the outrageous. I especially love the voices I vehemently disagree with because it tells me that we have begun to speak ~ to scream, even. That we are no longer shackled by invisibility and silence. It tells me that our LGBT children are growing up hearing a disparate chorus of gay voices, which allows them to pin their dreams to a wider swatch of sky. It makes their lives infinitely easier than mine was ~ in the same way that the out gay voices of the 70s and 80s made my life infinitely easier than it would have been 20 years prior. We must speak – all of us – so that our children might hear.
And as we do, as we come more and more out of the closet, one fact will become more and more blindingly clear – we are united by very little. We are everywhere. We are everyone. We are all backgrounds, skin tones. We speak all languages and worship all gods. We worship no god. We are in every economic class. We are all political stripes and professions. There are as many opinions, beliefs, talents, flaws, foibles, heroes and villains within the LGBT community as there are people. We are, at best, an unwieldy group.
Yes, we are bound by the common experience of shame – an external force that seeps into our psyches. Yes, we are bound by the struggle to overcome that – the struggle to unlearn self-hate and to become spiritually healthy in a hostile world – the struggle to move towards our own honesty and truth. As we walk from shame to freedom, we commune on a road paved with splinters and shards and knives and needles. Some of us travel it with bare feet. Others crawl on hands and knees. We meet there, cut up and scarred, and discover a new family that speaks our shorthand. In that, we are bound.
But what if that road were smoothed out and paved over? What then? For that is not all we are. When you remove that imprint, that massive, yet singular lynchpin, we become as bound together as straight people are bound together. Which is not much. What do I have to talk about with a gay person who shares none of my interests? Or vice versa?
I can’t help but think that as time marches on, and as we truly wipe away the stain of fear and shame, that future LBGT generations will find our sameness to be not so similar.
So I ask you: As we become safer in places where we are alone and have less need to huddle together, will we connect? As being gay becomes nothing more than the definition of one’s sexuality as opposed to an experience, will our bonds break? What does it mean to be gay? Does it mean everything or nothing? Or anything? Does the “normalization” of our lives mean that we will lose our uniqueness? Is this something we should consider? Is there such a thing as the “gay community?” Who are we?
Let me know your thoughts.